The regular season has ended for the Cincinnati Bearcats, who finished things up by losing two out of three games to the USF Bulls. Despite those two letdowns, the Bearcats finished the regular portion of the campaign with a 28-26 overall record and an even 12-12 mark in American Athletic Conference play. That 12-12 mark is a two-game improvement from last year and with a record above .500 entering the postseason, the Bearcats have a real chance to lock up their first winning season since 2011. Let’s take a look back at the series’ festivities before we discuss what’s next.
Game One - Cincinnati 10 USF 7
There was very little by way of pitching success in this one even as the Bearcats’ ace started the game. J.T. Perez only lasted four innings, surrendering three runs on as many hits as well as four walks. That marked his shortest outing of the season and first time all year he has failed to get to the fifth inning. However, thanks to the lineup, that poor pitching didn’t matter. Kyle Mottice led off and was a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Joey Wiemer played left field and added a pair of hits, runs and RBIs as well, while Manny Rodriguez homered once again and Mason Deanna contributed a pair of knocks.
In all, the Bearcats had 12 hits and six walks as a team. Even in scoring 10 runs, they left nine runners on base and also hurt themselves with three errors. USF hit four home runs off of UC hurlers as well.
Game Two - USF 8 Cincinnati 6
Instead of Nathan Kroger, Scott Googins went with Jalen Wade to start game two of the series, which kicked off a double-header on Friday to close things out. Wade made it to the fifth inning, but was pulled after surrendering six runs on seven hits and five walks across 4 2⁄3 innings. Mottice did his best to keep the offense chugging, slashing three hits in five at-bats, while Rodriguez, Wiemer and AJ Bumpass homered. However, the Bulls’ potent offense recorded 13 hits, with three players having multi-hit games. UC’s bullpen, especially Jarod Yoakam (1 1⁄3 innings, zero runs) at least gave the Bearcats a chance to come back, with USF failing to score in the last three innings.
Game Three - USF 9 Cincinnati 8
The bullpen did not hold up well enough in the series finale to give UC a win. While the Bearcats scored six runs combined in the seventh and eighth innings to come back and even things, in the top of the final inning, an RBI single from USF shortstop Coco Montes pushed the Bulls ahead for good. Yoakam gave up the decisive blow, but it was starter Tristan Hammans who really suffered, allowing seven runs on nine hits in 4 1⁄3 innings.
Mottice mashed once more in the losing effort, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two steals. Unfortunately, he had nearly half of UC’s entire output in terms of hits (eight).
Series MVP - Kyle Mottice
There were scoring chances a plenty near the top of the order thanks to UC’s second baseman and leadoff hitter. He went 10-for-13 during the series, lifting his already lofty batting average to .330 along the way. He finished the regular season with team-highs in batting average, on-base percentage (.433) and steals (19), while providing well-honed plate discipline, as he had 28 walks compared to 32 strikeouts.
While the regular season is over, the Bearcats aren’t finished just yet. As the No. 6 seed in the AAC Tournament, they will face No. 3 seed UConn on Wednesday. The tourney is a double-elimination format, so if the Bearcats fall short of winning the whole thing, they will need to win at least once more to ensure a final mark above .500. For now, such modest goals can be tabled since winning the ‘ship is the target.